New quarter, new proclamations of pain from traditional media owners. Many of them are seeing significant declines in their precious advertising revenues.
The problem, as articulated by 'Free', is that advertising was once a scarcity market. It was a market that was defined by a lack of supply. I've lost count of the number of briefs that use the words 'cash-rich, time-poor'.
The implication we're using in this case is that the people we're targeting don't consume much media. They will only see our adverts in a couple of places in the rare times when they're not working or doing aspirational things.
Clients loved it. We loved it. The media loved it. It was even and recycled and sold back to consumers: here and here among the 11.2 million results in Google. Consumers loved the idea that they were so important they couldn't be bothered to engage with stuff that wasn't either fun or self improving.
Our entire industry was then wrapped around this problem. Fickle people need clever strategies for finding them. Media agencies will sit there and come up with cunning ways to reach them. Publishers will dream up shiny media vehicles that are tailored to these people. The agencies will come up with a way to value the audiences that publishers own. The Publishers will then find ways to 'reach' that audience that will turn out to be particularly costly.
Problem is that we've gotten a bit too good at finding solutions to this problem. The internet has been a fantastic leveller in terms of media consumption.
In the old media world, one could argue that the only way to reach a 'high flier' was to buy ads in the FT, maybe the economist and possibly get some posters around Canary Wharf. You wouldn't find them watching Pop Idol or at least the wastage you'd see in that buy would make things a bit pointless.
Now a whole host of companies have come along trying to find ways to get to those people. We can identify them from registration data across Facebook and LinkedIN. They will be reading the business sections online across the Guardian, Reuters, Bloomberg, FT, WSJ, CityWire, Interactive Investor, etc.
This worked for a while but at some point some more clever people came up with ways to identify these people across the internet. Now we can use tracking technology to find regular readers of the FT \ business sections \ heavy online purchasers. Once we've found them, we can target ads to them wherever they are. For the price of one placement in the FT, we can get ten when that person's reading up on the latest gossip on HeatWorld (they still indulge their trashy side too).
The targeting change hasn't fully hit the media landscape yet. We've yet to nail the exact places our ads are going to be appearing in. Testing of the effectiveness of the targeted ads hasn't come back with solid enough results.
What's certain is that once the recession has ended, publishers who rely on pushing high rates for their 'premium' audience are going to have difficulty pushing their rates back up to where they were before the recession.
Image stolen from Big Huge Labs